Santo Niño de Cebú
|Holy Child of Cebu
Balaang Bata sa Sugbo
Santo Niño de Cebú
Batang Banal ng Cebu
Image of Señor Santo Niño de Cebu
|Date||21 April 1521|
|Holy See approval||Pope Innocent XIII
Pope Paul VI
Pope John Paul II
|Shrine||Basílica Minore del Santo Niño|
|Attributes||Crown, sceptre, orb, dark skin, maroon mantle, Salvator Mundi|
The Santo Niño de Cebú (Cebuano: Balaang Bata sa Sugbo, Filipino: Batang Banal ng Cebu, Spanish: Santo Niño de Cebú) is a Roman Catholic title of a statue of the Child Jesus in Cebu City of Philippines. The image is venerated as miraculous by many Filipino Catholics. It is one of the oldest Christian relics in the Philippines, originally given in 1521 as a gift by explorer Ferdinand Magellan to Rajah Humabon and his wife when he landed on the island.
The statue measures approximately twelve inches tall, is made of a dark wood in baroque style and depicts the Child Jesus as a king dressed like Spanish royalty. The expressions, accessories and hand posture of Santo Nino de Cebu are similar to the Infant Jesus of Prague now located in Czech Republic. It is believed that both statues originated from the same European source, with the devotion to Santo Nino starting earlier of the two. The statue is clothed in rich fabrics, wears jewelry such as gilded neck chain and bears imperial regalia including a gold crown, globus cruciger, and various sceptres mostly donated by devotees.
The image received papal recognition on 28 April 1965, when Pope Paul VI issued a papal bull for the Canonical Coronation of the statue and raised the church that houses it to a basilica status to mark the 400th anniversary of the first Christian mission and rediscovery of the statue in Cebu. The image has historically attracted devotional worship in Philippines, attracting devotional worship, processions and pilgrimage, with numerous Filipino pilgrims touching or kissing the foot of the statue's stand. There is an annual feast every January on the third Sunday which is marked by fiesta, sinulog dancing in the streets, and prayers to Senor Santo Nino statue.
The Holy Child's image is liturgically celebrated during weekly Mass, novenas and Christian holidays. Along with the Black Nazarene statue of Jesus Christ, it is the most popular object of devotion in the Philippines. The Santo Niño image is replicated in many homes and business establishments, with different titles reinterpreted in various areas of the country. It is one of the most beloved and recognizable cultural icons in the Philippines, with the original permanently encased within bulletproof glass in a chapel at the Basílica Menor del Santo Niño.
In early 1521, the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, in the service of Charles V of Spain, was on his voyage to find a westward route to spice islands. In April 7, 1521, he landed in Limasawa, Southern Leyte, and met local ruler named Raja Kulambu, who introduced him to the ruler of Cebu island named Rajah Humabon (some records refer to him as Sultan Humabon) and his wife Hara Humamay. On April 14, 1521, Magellan presented them with three gifts, a cross, an image of Mary and Santo Nino de Cebu as a part of their baptism, and a strategic alliance for territorial conquest. As the host ruler adopted the Catholic faith, he took the Christian names of Carlos (after Charles V), and his wife took the name Juana (after Joanna of Castile, Charles' mother). According to Pigafetta – Magellan's companion and memoir writer, along with the ruler, about 500 males there, along with the Sultana and 40 women were also converted by Father Valderrama. At the ceremony, for example, the Raja Kulambu of Limawasa also converted and was renamed as Don Juan, while his Muslim captain was renamed Don Cristobal.
A few days after the baptism, Magellan undertook a war expedition on the behalf of the newly named Carlos, attacked Mactan Island, burning down hamlets who resisted. The residents led by Lapu Lapu defended Magellan's attack with force, and Magellan died on 27 April 1521 in the Battle of Mactan, about three weeks after he had arrived in Philippines. After Magellan's death, his Spanish colleagues left.
The next Spanish expedition arrived on April 27, 1565, again to gain a foothold for a colony to trade spices, and this was led by Miguel López de Legazpi. He attempted a peaceful colonization, but these efforts were rejected. He opened fire on Cebu and burnt the coastal town down destroying 1500 homes and possibly killing 500 people. In the ruins of this destruction, the Spanish mariner Juan Camus found the image of the Santo Niño in a pine box. According to the local legend, the survival of the statue was seen as a sign of miracle by the colonizers, and ever since it has been believed to have miraculous powers.
The image of the Santo Niño is the oldest surviving Catholic relic in the Philippines, along with the Magellan cross. A church to house Santo Niño was built on the spot where the image was found by Juan Camus. The church was originally made out of bamboo and mangrove palm and claims to be the oldest parish in the Philippines. It was reconstructed later, and Pope Paul VI elevated it to the status of Minor Basilica on its 400th anniversary (Spanish: Basílica Minore del Santo Niño).
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The feast, locally known as Fiesta Señor, starts on the Thursday after the Solemnity of the Epiphany. Each year, the celebration starts with a dawn procession wherein the replica image of Santo Niño de Cebu is brought down to the streets. It is then followed by the novena Masses, which span nine days.
On the last day of the novena, another dawn procession is held wherein the image of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Cebu removed from its shrine to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu. After the procession, it will stay for a while in the Basilica. Then, the images of Santo Niño de Cebu and Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Cebu are brought to the National Shrine of St. Joseph in Mandaue City to be reunited with the church's namesake, thus forming the Holy Family. This transfer, which is common in fiestas throughout the country, is called Traslación.
On the morning of the vesperas ("eve", i.e., the day before) of the feast, the images of Santo Niño de Cebu and Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Cebu are brought back to Cebu City in a fluvial procession that concludes with a reenactment of the first Mass and baptism in the islands. It is then followed by a grand yet solemn foot procession in the afternoon, culminating in a Pontifical Mass concelebrated by bishops and priests. The grand Sinulog Festival is then held on the following Sunday.
The Hubo rite
The festival officially ends on the Friday after the icon's feast day, and it is marked with the traditional Hubo (Cebuano, "undress") rite. During a Mass, the basilica's priests and sacristans ceremonially strip the Santo Niño of its festal vestments and regalia.
There is a strict order of divesting the icon: first the crown is removed, followed by the orb and sceptre; then the belt, cape, tunic, inner garments; and finally, the boots. The priest performs the removals, preceding each with a short petition. Each removal is accompanied by a festive drum roll, and ends with the priest chanting Christe exaudi nos (”Christ graciously hear us”).
The priest then carefully immerses the icon in a basin of scented water, wipes it dry, and dresses it in simpler everyday robes. He then replaces the icon's accoutrements in the reverse order of the undressing, each time ending with a prayer and leading the congregation in singing Christus Vincit; Christus Regnat; Christus, Christus Imperat.
The rite is said to highlight Christ's humility, and symbolizes a spiritual change that should occur in the individual believer. It was only in 1990 when the Augustinians in charge of the icon first made known and opened the rite to the public.
The original feast date for the image was April 28, but in the 18th century, the following changes were made:
- Pope Innocent XIII moved the date to avoid conflict with the Eastertide. In addition, he approved special liturgical texts for use during the local feast of the Santo Niño in the Philippines, set on the third Sunday of January, followed by the Sinulog festival.
- Pope Paul VI issued a Canonical Coronation for the image on 28 April 1965 via his Papal legate. Through the Papal bull "Ut Clarificetur", the same Pontiff raised the sanctuary a Minor Basilica on 2 May 1965.
- Pope John Paul II gave his papal endorsement for the image in his Mass for Families in 1981.
During the Spanish colonial era, the Santo Niño was given the high military rank of Captain-General, with the full title of "Celentísimo Capitán General de las Esfuerzas Españolas en Filipinas" (The Most Esteemed Captain-General of the Spanish Forces in the Philippines). For this reason, the statue is vested in a red cape and sash, symbolising the rank of a general, and military boots.
The image was later honoured by the Philippine Navy with the title "Lord Admiral of the Sea" during the 446th anniversary of the image's Kaplag ("finding" or "rediscovery") in 2011. This was done in acknowledgment of Christ's "lordship over seafarers, mariners and the marine ecology." The image was taken aboard the naval ship BRP General Emilio Aguinaldo (PG-140) for a fluvial parade, marking the first time its own naval ensign bearing its coat-of-arms was flown by a Philippine naval vessel. The honour was a joint effort of the Naval Forces Central, Philippine Coast Guard-Cebu District, Cebu Ports Authority, Philippine National Police Maritime Group, among others.
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The Santo Niño was popularly considered the official patron of Cebu, but the Church in the Philippines suppressed the notion and clarified that it is not the representation of a saint that intercedes to God but rather God in the person of Jesus. Instead, the Archbishop of Cebu, Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, declared Our Lady of Guadalupe of Cebú as the principal patroness of Cebu in 2002.
The devotion to the Santo Niño is common with worldwide veneration of the Infant Jesus of Prague. The image is found in many houses, business establishments, and public transportation. Traditionally, the image is often dressed in one of two colours: red is common for domestic images, while green – symbolising luck – is worn by those enshrined in businesses. It is also often dressed in miniature costumes that often reflect the profession of its devotee such as physicians, nurses, policemen, or teachers. Another popular variation is the Santo Niño de Atocha which in the country is uniquely in a standing pose rather than seated as with the Spanish version.
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- Sally Ann Ness (2016). Body, Movement, and Culture: Kinesthetic and Visual Symbolism in a Philippine Community. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 66. ISBN 978-1-5128-1822-2., Quote: "As a gesture of reverence, the pilgrims would approach the image to give the foot of the idol's votive stand a kiss or a loving touch, satisfying the ultimate aim of their journey: to draw ever nearer to the Santo Nino de Cebu".
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- Bryan Christy (2012), Ivory worship, National Geographic; Quote:"Some Filipinos believe the Santo Niño de Cebu is Christ himself. Sixteenth-century Spaniards declared the icon to be miraculous and used it to convert the nation, making this single wooden statue, housed today behind bulletproof glass in Cebu’s Basilica Minore del Santo Niño, the root from which all Filipino Catholicism has grown. Earlier this year a local priest was asked to resign after allegedly advising his parishioners that the Santo Niño and images of the Virgin Mary and other saints were merely statues made of wood and cement."
- Birgit Mersmann; Alexandra Schneider (2009). Transmission Image: Visual Translation and Cultural Agency. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-4438-0471-4., Quote: "The Santo Niño statue, the beloved new image, which found its place among its indigenous relatives in the Raja's home, was a product of Flemish artisans..."
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- Cebu Daily News, Cebu Daily News (21 January 2012). "‘Hubo shows Sto. Niño’s humility’". Inquirer.net. Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
- "Apostolic Journey to the Far East, Homily for families of John Paul II, 19 February 1981".
- "‘Lucky to find Sto. Niño’".
- "Sto. Niño de Cebu: El Capitan General".
- [http://globalnation.inquirer.net/cebudailynews/news/view/20110429-333601/Navy-honors-Sto-Nio-as-captain "Navy honors Sto. Ni�o as captain - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos"]. replacement character in
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- Sto. Nino de Cebu. http://www.malapascua.de/Cebu/Cebu_6__Santo_Nino/cebu_6__santo_nino.html